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Saturday, December 07, 2002

Adventures in Shopping-Did a lot of Christmas shopping today, mostly for Eileen's clan, although we did get a cute yellow ducky sleeper for nephew Tyler. Got further exposed to Thomas Kincade stuff today, as one of the gift shops we went through had a lot of his stuff. I can see why average folks like him and art snobs might not; he's got a homey touch to his stuff that's a touch impressionistic but clearly shows the small-town Americana he's covering. Lots of cutsey stuff as well. A few favorites -- Christmas napkin with Santa at a restaurant. Response to waiter-"Anything but milk and cookies." -- Same display rack with Wise Men in front of a Welcome to France sign-"Nice shortcut!" -- Birthday card with Chihuahua-sized dog sitting in big dog-food dish labeled Killer. Inner caption-"Happy birthday, you animal!" -- This wasn't in today's trip, but I saw a baby in a cammo "onesie", captioned "Pee all that you can pee." After shopping and going to an open house, we went walking in the nice subdivision behind our apartment complex. One of the streets is Sea Pines Run, which prompts the reflexive response, "Run, Pines, Run!!" That reminds me of this I saw in our old computer store
C:\DOS\ C:\DOS\RUN RUN\DOS\RUN

Today's Word is "Concupiscence"- Since I was talking about our sin nature in today's Edifier, this Lutheran-Catholic debate mentioned over at Veritas is all the more interesting. I had seen it earlier in the week and saw it as too much inside baseball at first; not so. Chris is upset over the issue of concupiscence. OK, that's a new word to me-this dictionary states it as " strong desire; especially : sexual desire." That doesn't help too much, but this Avery Dulles First Things essay on the Lutheran-Catholic dialog does
This reading of the Lutheran position is confirmed by the handling of the fourth issue, that of concupiscence—a technical term signifying the disorderly desires and spiritual weakness that afflict our fallen human nature. Lutherans hold that the justified person remains a sinner because "concupiscence" is not removed by baptism. In their view the justified person is, as the phrase goes, simul justus et peccator—at once righteous and a sinner. Catholics, by contrast, hold that concupiscence is not sin, and that justification removes all that can properly be called sin. The Council of Trent taught that justification effectively makes us righteous and condemned the view that our justification is only an imputation of Christ’s righteousness (DS 1560–61). It also condemned under anathema the view that concupiscence is sin (DS 1515). When Lutherans say that concupiscence makes people sinners, they seem to imply that it makes us guilty before God and needs to be forgiven or at least covered over by the merits of Christ. This was and is contrary to Catholic teaching.
Here's Chris' take on this issue
In its evaluation the Fort Wayne department of systematics rightly pointed out that the Lutheran and Catholic differences in their theologies of original sin play an important role in the question of justification. As they write, "Lutherans hold that original sin is really sin and that it remains after Baptism. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that original sin is eradicated by Baptism and that concupiscence is not really sin." Exactly correct, and this is one of (if not the) major sticking points in this dialogue. I agree completely with the evaluation at this point. My problem is with the sentence that follows shortly. The evaluation introduces the Council of Trent's statement on concupiscence thus: "The issue came to a head in Trent's Decree Concerning Original Sin (Fifth Session), which calmly anathematized St. Paul: 'This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.'" Which calmly anathematized St. Paul??? This little jab really irks me. I could understand it if it came in the context of a polemic on the issue, but it really seems out of place in an evaluation of an ecumenical statement. The fact is, we (Lutherans and Catholics) disagree on what exactly St. Paul meant in places like Rom 6-8 and Col. 3. We don't read his language to mean that the concupiscence in the justified is actually sin; they do. I am aware of and acknowledge this difference of interpretation, and naturally I think that ours is correct. But I would never say that Lutherans "anathematize" Paul in their understanding of what concupscence is. This just seems really out of place and uncalled for to me. Maybe I'm over-reacting, but everytime I read this line, it gets me going.
OK, at first glance, I think that both sides are right on technical grounds. Let's go back to the Dulles definition of concupiscence-"the disorderly desires and spiritual weakness that afflict our fallen human nature." Does the believer have this less-than-perfect mental state? You betcha. Is that mental state sin? Only when stimuli cause those desires and weaknesses to be acted upon in ways God doesn't like. The fact that we're prone to sin isn't sin in and of itself. Catholics 1, Lutherans 0 for now. However, are we sinners after we're baptized? Do we still sin on occasion even with the Holy Spirit operating in our lives? Yes, if we use sin in a basic sense of doing things that God doesn't want us to do, or not doing the things that God wants us to do. The Lutherans nail one to the Wittenburg gate, tying the score. Let's go to overtime. I'm not an expert on Catholic doctrine, but I think we might be looking at two types of sin, the "Original Sin" of Adam and Eve's disobedience that Jesus' death counters and the particular sin nature of the individual. Jesus' death wipes out that sentence of separation given to Adam and allows believers to regain a closeness with God that was lost after Eden. However, that personal sin (if there's a technical term for it, let me know) that's our own doing also needs to be accounted for. Jesus not only died to close the Adamic gap, but also died for our personal sins as well; such sin is lessened once we become followers, but not eliminated. If we don't sin once we're believers, why the long lines at the confessional? I could use some help from my Catholic blog-buddies here, Chris first and foremost- are we talking past each other on this one? If we're not sinners after we're baptized, what are you confessing in the confessional?

Morning Musings-Well, that spiritual chemotherapy could cause you to lose your hair if you tear it out in disgust, like this fellow
16. Which blog can you just not read anymore for fear that you will do someone bodily harm (you know, the way you feel when listening to that strumppet Dr. Laura Schlesshillamainger)? Mark Byron's. It's true. Sorry.
Should I take the comparison to the Dr. Laura as a complement? I think this fellow's still ticked at my Harry Potter piece. Our little blog worlds are sufficiently insular that we don't run into too many people who get our goats on a ongoing basis. If there isn't anything to interest us, we might fisk an article or two, but people who we don't like we usually leave alone. I must have given this person enough good politics and economic stuff to keep him coming back but enough evangelical stuff to frustrate him. Seek counseling, sir, before acting on those angry sentiments. On a lighter note, but not much lighter, a good series seems to be cooking over at He Lives of Evangelism and God's Sovereignty. How do we have the surety of the Calvinist and yet keep the evangelical hustle of the Arminian? If you say that (as Heddle's Calvinism leads him to) God is the one who saves us and He knows who will and won't be saved, it can lead to a lack of evangelism-"If God really wants that person saved, he'll send someone else." Good food for thought. Back to the news of the day-Venezuela's getting bloody, as three protestors were killed by pro-government folks. I'm smelling a full-scale civil war brewing. The Iraqi are slated to give a 10,000 page data dump to the weapon's inspectors. December 7th, today, is the deadline. Seems fitting, or at least ironic.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 6:3-10(NASB)
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
This part of Romans always gets my head scratching; I'm not yet a sin-free zone, for I do things (or at least think about things) God doesn't like on a hourly basis. We aren't slaves to sin anymore, but go back to our old boss' digs for regular visits. We keep finding that it's a lousy place and that we shouldn't visit, and then head back to our new Master's house. Then we forget and head back towards sin again, find out how empty it is and make yet another return trip to God. We are ridding ourselves (with the Holy Spirit's help, of course) of that old self, getting rid of pockets of the mind that still want to go back to Egypt rather than head on towards to land we've been promised. We put that cancerous tumor of sin on the cross when we gave our lives to him, but we still have to go through spiritual chemotherapy to get at some of the metastasized pieces. With prayer, study of the Word and fellowship, we can keep that sin cancer in remission, but (as I understand it) it never quite goes away. At least this treatment doesn't cause you to lose your hair.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Treasury Secretary Kemp, Anyone?-Both Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and economic adviser Larry Lindsey were asked to resign today. I think you need someone at Treasury who understands economics more than just corporate finance, someone who will have the respect of the central bankers and finance ministers around the world. O'Neill, while a decent fellow, was too much of a corporate good-ol'-boy to give the supply-side push that we want at the Treasury Department. With unemployment creeping back up to 6%, we need to have someone who can sell the need to keep the tax cuts in place and to hopefully add some more cuts. This, coupled with the forced resignation of SEC chief Harvey Pitt will allow the administration, if they play their card right, to bring some people who know economics but aren’t quite as tied to corporate America than the current crop of leaders. I don’t know who those people would be. The SEC chief should have a streak of protecting the investor rather than cozying up to the brokerage firms, for inertia will favor the brokerages. A new Treasury secretary should be able to sell the 2001 tax cuts and keep them on the books; we need a champion of the small businessman and Joe Average rather than a Fortune 500 executive and GOP donor. If Bush does this, putting people who will look after the public and be seen to be doing so, he’ll win in 2004 in a walk; if he starts pulling names from the corporate power-donor list, he’ll give the class-warfare folks on the left some useful ammunition.

Kerry-Kerrey-While we’re talking about John Kerry’s presidential run, let’s not confuse him with Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator and current president of the New School; both are Vietnam vets. Bob Kerrey is the one who dated Debra Winger while governor and who was recently accused of a massacre of innocents during his Vietnam stint. Kerrey’s also the guy who was out front of entitlements reform and had a solid neoliberal streak to him, willing to take the occasional anti-idiotarian stance. It’s a pity that John’s running for president and the skulls full of mush are trying to run Bob out of his New School spot (as Papa Blog mentioned).

Snowy Friday Five-Here's my quick take on Mean Dean's quiz.(1) Did you get any snow yesterday? If so, how much?-None. It was drizzly and in the 60s and 70s. Central Florida is nice. (2) What is the biggest snow storm you've ever experienced?-1978 was the topper, about 18 inches, shutting down Midland's schools for three days (the only three-day shutdown I can remember). (3) What is your favorite snow-time activity?- I'm more of a troglodyte in winter; sane people go from one warm spot to another. The one that brings back the fondest memories was watching our terrapoo (half terrier, half cockapoo) Toby go primal with joy in the snow. Chasing snowballs was another of her favorites as was just rolling around and playing crazy-dog in the snow; defrosting her when she got inside was an adventure in itself. (4) What is the largest snow man you've ever built? What were the circumstances?I didn't do snow men much; snow forts were activities for the big storms, to be followed by a Calvinesque snow war. (5)With regards to sledding, do you prefer the old-school American Flyer with metal runners, a poly vinyl plastic wonder, an inner tube, a "liberated" cafeteria tray?The one I remember was a light metal circular shieldish thing, that my 6'4" dad did in by getting too much air over a bump and landing hard, hurting the sled more than himself.

Dictatorship of the Proletariat?-Things are starting to get interesting in Venezuela as the general strike's starting to kick in; the national oil company's having to stop shipments and tankers in route out of Venezuela have staged a float-in, dropping anchor and not proceeding to their ports. Fill up your gas tank, for that's going to jack oil prices up. Here's an interesting paragraph from the BBC coverage.
While manual laborers still tend to support Mr Chavez, parts of the country are being brought to a standstill by his opponents in business and white-collar jobs.
Oh, those pesky bourgeoisie getting in the way of the Bolivarian revolution!

Morning Musings-I haven't got a link yet on this, but I heard a radio report on a raid on a Boston software firm ("P-Tech" was the name mentioned-spelling phonetically[Update 11AM, it's Ptech]) with both large government contracts and al Qaeda financial ties. The Mets seem to be making a big move in getting Glavine for next year. However, I’ve got a feeling that the Mets might be getting declining goods. At 37, he’s likely on the downslope of his career, but with an ERA just under 3, that’s a good-sized hill to start your sled from. That’s an age bracket where many pitchers start to implode. Time for the Braves to go snag a younger arm to replace him with. Doesn't look like there's anything sinister to the small-plane crash into the Miami Fed, but stranger things have happened

Dangerous, but Worth It-Via Airstip One, this Buchanan essay on North Korea, titled "A Dangerous Form of Altruism." Pat's general thesis on US foreign policy was: Manifest Destiny of the 1800s-Good; Wilsonian policy to help others without any direct benefit-Bad. He asks questions worth answering, even if it isn't in the way he'd want me to answer them. We have both selfish (protect trade lanes) and altruistic (expanding God's kingdom and expanding the Anglosphere) motives for foreign policy. Let's take a look at what he's proposing for East Asia and whether we should allow Korea and Japan to stew in their own natural juices.
Pyongyang has been caught producing enriched uranium. And as we seek to isolate North Korea, with her 11,000 artillery tubes a few miles from 37,000 U.S. troops, who stands by us? South Korea and Japan prefer appeasement. China refuses to condemn her ally. Whatever one may think of the ingratitude of South Korea and Japan, whom we have defended for half a century, they are acting in their national interests. Isolating North Korea until she shuts down all nuclear plants is, to them, not worth the risk of provoking a war with the armed, dangerous, and unpredictable regime of Kim Jong Il.
Japan doesn't have the military to do much in North Korea and appeasement of the North is an issue in play in the South; to say that they both prefer appeasement is a bit of a stretch. They're also playing a free-rider game, for with the US nuclear umbrella backing them up, they can play the good cops to a modest extent.
But this raises a question: Why is a nuclear weapon on a North Korean missile a greater threat to us than to Seoul or Tokyo? Why are we confronting Pyongyang alone? Why are we risking war? It is not our homeland that is threatened here.
It isn't, but we have the firepower to stare Pyongyang down. North Korea could win a war against the South and could be a significant threat to Japan if there were no US security backup. If we were to have a East Asian War, we would see a good chunk of the world's electronic industry taken out, as well as many other key industries. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans would be heading to the US to flee a radioactive peninsula if a second Korean War broke out without the US. With our backup, the North knows it can't win a war. It can inflict sufficient damage to make a South/US joint takeover more bother than it's worth, but it can't win. Containment worked with Russia, it might just work in North Korea. Pyongyang is making small steps towards modernization, setting up a free-trade zone. Containment and isolation is forcing it to rethink their command economy just as Gorby had to loosen things up enough to lose power.
South Korea, with twice the population of the North and thirty times her GDP, can defend herself. Japan is even more capable. Why then are we committed in perpetuity to risk war to defend both of these nations when neither is obligated to defend us?
Because we can do so cheaply; being protector of East Asia is easier than having South Korea and Japan armed to the teeth and possibly using that power in way we wouldn't like.
How do our security treaties with Japan and Korea strengthen our security? Now that the Soviet threat no longer exists, are not these “entangling alliances” a dangerous form of altruism? Would it not serve U.S. interests to inform Tokyo and Seoul that we intend to dissolve the old security treaties, remove our troops from their territory, and let them deal with Pyongyang as they deem best?
No, for that would invite a regional war in which the world economy (something else Pat doesn't like much) would be harmed, as well as damage the good spiritual work that is going on in Korea-it's on the verge of become a majority-Christian nation. If Pat is more willing to help in Europe based on Christian affinity, South Korea is worthy of being helped as well. 20,000 troops (IIRC) on the Korean DMZ is a cheap price to pay to keep South Korea and Japan lightly armed and focused on economics rather than armies.
South Korea and Japan could appease North Korea or build-up their forces, conventional or even nuclear, to contain her. While that might complicate life for Beijing, let the Chinese deal with it.
We'd all have to deal with the fallout, Pat, both figurative and (if it goes nuclear) literal. Economic disruption, refugees (we'll take 'em Pat, remember they're mostly Christians?) and environmental messes. If we stay there, they're not going to mess with the US directly.
America should disengage from her Asian alliances and let the nuclear powers there—China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea—and the potential nuclear powers—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan—establish their own balance of power. For there is nothing in all of Asia worth a nuclear war or another Vietnam. Or is there?
We're more likely to stop a nuclear war with our present that without. Let to their own devices, a regional nuclear war could develop, one that one side or the other might be able to win. With the US in the picture, the North Koreans are assured destruction (just AD, not MAD; their arsenal isn't big enough for it to be mutual) ; with the US gone, they aren't. True, such a nuclear war doesn't threaten the US, but down the line, a North Korea that is used to getting tribute from Japan and South Korea could have longer-range ICMBs and start asking for food aid so as to keep Los Angeles from glowing. Yes, Pat there is stuff in Asia that worth being there for.
By playing Wyatt Earp to the world, throwing down every third-rate gun-slinger, we are one day going to get shot by a rogue state. When we do, Wyatt will turn in his badge. Let’s do it now.
We're more likely to be shot by a rogue state if we hand in our badge and encourage them to fight it out amongst themselves. Even if we're not shot at directly, the gun-slingers will trash the world village so badly that we wish we hadn't handed in our badge. Pat would like to head out into the sunset, saying "Well, look's like my job here is done." However, unlike Black Bart, the North Korea bullets can reach over the horizon, so our job's not quite done.

Why Not Support Israel?-Nice piece over at He Lives on Israel and evangelicals; Mr. Heddle asks for a bit of analysis here
First of all, the data show that about 2/3 of evangelical Christians say their sympathies, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, lie with Israel. (What is the other 1/3 thinking? I’ll leave that to the uber-pundits like Fuhrmann and Claybourn and Byron).
Four areas come to mind where an evangelical would either side with the Palestinians or against Israel. (1) Pacifist tendencies. There is a small but not-trivial anti-war wing within the evangelical camp. Quakers and Mennonites lean anti-war and there are the Tony Campolo/Ron Sider style Democratic Evangelicals who can be counted on to oppose most military action. (2) Israel as a bully. You have the gruff, un-touchy-feely Sharon sending his airships to bomb refugee camps, killing innocents while they take out autoboomer colleges. If the news plays up the loss of Palestinian innocents (they know how to throw a funeral for the cameras), compassion would tend to give the Palestinians a break, even if the autoboomers kill more innocent Israelis that the Israelis kill innocent Palestinians. (3) Palestinians as the oppressed underdog. This, coupled with #2 above, could help explain the gender gap. If 62% of evangelicals and 77% of evangelical males support Israel, that would indicate that only 47% of evangelical females did. Women in general have a lower tolerance for bullies and greater compassion for the underdog. I'd also expect black evangelicals to lean in this direction as well. (4) Good-ol' fashion anti-Semitism. Deep seated biases and myths about the Jews owning everything and running everything still percolate in the evangelical culture. I'd say its about equal parts of all four of those reasons, although many people would relate to more than one of the reasons.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 5:6-11
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
When I read this passage this afternoon with Eileen, I had a hard time getting my mind around rejoicing (in the NIV) in Jesus' death. What happen on the cross hit home like never before. He didn't just take the "sin of the world" upon Himself, he took my sins up there. He took my gluttonies, my lusts, my lazinesses; all of it. All of it being dumped onto Him, and when He was done taking the scorn for my sins, there were a billion more sin dumps for him to take, one at a time. I have a hard time being joyful over that fact. I am grateful that Jesus did do that, for I'd be on the highway to Hell without it. However, I have too much respect for what Jesus went through to be joyful over it. I take joy in the Holy Spirit's presence, but my thoughts on Calvary are more to exult God, as the NASB translates, to put Him in a place of respect, than to be joyful.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Schadenfreude or Gratitude? It's a humid 71 here in Lake Wales. How is it for y'all up on the East Coast? Oh, that's terrible! Hang in there, easterners . Once I get the gloat out of the way, the compassion comes out. I remember being there myself for four decades of winters. I do like Florida weather; we do have those nasty 90-degree summers, but you don't have to shovel the humidity (although some days it feels like you could).

Edifier du Jour-Romans 4:1-12(NASB)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 "BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." 9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
Eileen and I just got done reading through Acts before moving into Romans in our (usually) daily devotional, and I didn't quite get the significance of the issue of circumcision at the time. Let's remember what circumcision is; it's the surgical removal of the foreskin. In the first century, this means no anesthetics and no antibiotics. That puppy would hurt. When the early church fought over the issue of whether to have the new Gentile believers circumcised, it was more than just a question of whether new Christians had to be Jews as well. This was, as we would say in economics, a barrier to entry. "You're going to do what to my [insert phallic euphemism here]?!?" Zeus and Apollo looked a tad bit better if that was the prereq to Christianity. However, they stetted it back in Acts by allowing the Gentiles in without circumcision. Does that make them second-class citizens in the world of faith? No, for circumcision, like baptism today, is something a believer did as a symbol of their belief, if it wasn't done for them as a baby. It was faith that saved Abraham, not the removal of foreskin. Likewise today, it's our faith that saves us, not the trip to the dunk tank. Having the courage to have that surgery sans anesthesia is something one could boast about, but that's not what gets you right with God. It faith that comes from God that saves us, and only God can get the props for that.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Reformation or Enlightenment?-Tony Adragna points out this Tom Friedman piece on Hashem Aghajari, a Iranian reformer with a death sentance for bucking the mullahs.
This struggle in Iran is symbolized by one man, whose name you should know: Hashem Aghajari, a former Islamic revolutionary and now a college professor, who was arrested Nov. 6 and sentenced to death by the Iranian hard-liners — triggering a student uprising — after giving a speech on the need to rejuvenate Islam with an "Islamic Protestantism." Mr. Aghajari's speech was delivered on the 25th anniversary of the death of Ali Shariati, one of the Iranian revolution's most progressive thinkers. In the speech — translated by the invaluable MEMRI service — he often cited Mr. Shariati as his inspiration. He began by noting that just as "the Protestant movement wanted to rescue Christianity from the clergy and the church hierarchy," so Muslims must do something similar today. The Muslim clergymen who have come to dominate their faith, he said, were never meant to have a monopoly on religious thinking or be allowed to ban any new interpretations in light of modernity.
The problem with this hypothesis is that if the people could read the Koran for themselves, that they would make the right and progressive decisions. It ain't necessarily so. Iran is a example of Shia Islam, which has a hierarchical system. Breaking up the hierarchy might help, but that has already happened in the Sunni part of the world. There, the believer is left to interpret the Koran on his own. If the reader takes the militant verses and uses an hermeneutic that makes them just as militant today, you have modern Wahhabi Islam. Thus, getting the Islamic people to make up their own minds isn't enough, it's making up their minds in a small-l liberal direction that is the trick. If we can use the Reformation example, there was a lot of harshness in the early reformers. Calvin, Luther and Zwingli weren't exactly ACLU types. It was the Enlightenment that followed in Europe, where man and nature became the focus rather than the supernatural realm, which blended with the democratic concept of the priesthood of all believers of the Reformation to create the modern liberal democracy. The Islamic world needs a Locke or a Voltaire more than it needs a Luther if it is to coexist in peace with the west, for the Luther could turn into a bin Laden very quickly. [Update 11:40PM-Check out this David Warren essay on Islam noticed via David Frum's blog-he hits the same point at the end of a good piece
These are, still today, cultures of the "pre-Enlightenment"; people not incapable of sympathy, for their own, but not yet versed in the imaginative projection of that sympathy into people who are not their own. And at this level, it is not Islam, but the Enlightenment, that stands between East and West in these matters. For we have largely lost the category of an "infidel", and they still have it.
Go give the piece a read]

Spirituality and Depression-Via Orrin Judd , I found this interesting Canadian piece
According to polls in the U.S. and Canada, 40 per cent of Americans and 20 per cent of Canadians report attending worship services regularly, but some pollsters believe the real numbers are closer to 20 per cent in the U.S. and 10 per cent in Canada. Dr. Baetz said those who told the National Population Survey they considered themselves very spiritual also reported higher levels of depression, a result that is contrary to U.S. studies that report lower levels of depression among those who regularly attend worship services. She says it is "an odd finding" and might be accounted for by those with higher levels of depression turning to spirituality for help.
Canada is less evangelical (about 10%) than the US as well. For the 80% who aren't going to a church, that "very spiritual" might manifest itself in various New Age practices, such as TM. Meditation has antidotal evidence on both sides, it helps calm some people down but gives others "bad trips." As I recall Mary Karr saying in a Fresh Air interview (talking about depression in general, not meditation): "Your mind is a dangerous place; don't go there alone." I'm coming at this from a Christian perspective, but the evidence I've seen over the years would lead me to think that Eastern meditative practices would hurt quite a few people, as the emptying process that meditation encourages opens the mind to manipulation. When you're going into the corners of your mind alone without the Holy Spirit's help, it opens you up to any number of bad thoughts coming to the fore to torment you; thinking about your problems alone often makes things worse. Also, such meditative states leave less savory spiritual entities room to screw things up. A future study might ask what forms that spirituality takes; I'd expect a higher correlation of depression with Eastern practices that with traditional Christian activities. It also could be that depressed people are drawn to New Age stuff rather than it making people depressed, but a more detailed study might prove interesting.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Ideopolis) - He’s now being touted as Tsongas 2.0 ; here’s the outline of his economic plan as laid out in a Cleveland speech yesterday.
He proposed allowing businesses a one-time break from their share of payroll taxes for every new employee they hire and for any raise they give to current employees. He also proposed eliminating the capital gains tax on the first $100 million worth of stock issued by technology companies and allowing small businesses to defer up to $250,000 of federal taxes if the money is reinvested in the business. In a nod to his party's political base, the senator also proposed helping employees by providing a one-year rebate on the 7.65 percent share they pay in payroll taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. Employers provide the other half. He said the savings would amount to $765 per worker and $1,530 for a two-income family. In addition, Kerry suggested extending unemployment benefits for 820,000 families that are due to expire three days after Christmas, raising the federal minimum wage by $1.40 to $6.55 per hour, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which especially benefits the working poor.
The first part is a pitch to the high-tech intelligentsia (the Ideopolis of The Coming Democratic Majority hypothesis) that is a swing voting block. The denizens of the tech firms are libertarian leaning as a group; they’re amenable to the permissive morality of the Democrats but they like low taxes as well. If you took that capital-gains exemptions and made it applicable to all new firms, you might get me interested, but this sounds a bit too much like industrial policy, with the tax breaks going to favored industries (watch to see how “technology” is defined). I’d even be interested in pursuing that tax-deferral idea for small business. Cato folks could agree to the first paragraph if you opened it up to non-tech firms. It looks like some good aggregate-supply boosting stuff that would give the economy a solid long-term boost. However, he veers off into Keynesville from there on. Temporary tax cuts for employers and employees won’t help the economy much. Giving employers a one-time 7.65% kickback on new hires and raises won’t help boost employment much, especially if it is offset by higher taxes or higher costs of capital to pay for all this. The personal FICA reductions look to be targeted at the first $10,000 of income ($765= $10,000*0.0765), so that won’t encourage anyone but the lowest-income workers to work harder. The temporary nature of the tax breaks will tend to have people more likely to save it, as they won’t change their buying habits much unless it is a permanent take-home pay hike they can count on for the long haul. Kerry must have one or more of the following three assumptions. First, that the economy is in a recession and that demand needs to be goosed. Second, that people tend to spend one-time tax cuts. Third, this is a good class-warfare game to get the poor folks on his side without ticking off the middle class. It might be a combination of the above. I wouldn’t mind an extra $65/month in my paycheck for a year, but there are better and more simulative ways to do a tax cut. It might be good politics, but it’s lousy macroeconomics. Yes, that could apply to the Bush $250 rebate checks too, but those checks were harbingers of long-term tax rate cuts rather than a one-shot deal; the Bush package as a whole was solid macroeconomics. The EITC proposal has some merits; at least it rewards low-income workers for bringing in more of a paycheck, although it has a discouraging effect for workers on the upper edge of the working-poor where the EITC credit is being phased out. It has more of a positive effect for the working poor than a minimum wage increase, which will eliminate some jobs that are worth doing at $5.15/hour but might not be worth doing at $6.55/hour. However, both don’t do much to stimulate the economy. Where will the $100 billion or so of lost tax revenue come from? Higher interest rates and/or higher upper-bracket tax hikes needed to offset the lost revenue will quickly offset any benefits from the business tax breaks. You then will have a long-term drain on aggregate supply from the costs of the tax cuts and from the minimum wage increase without having any long-term benefits to aggregate supply. Tech firms will have a lower cost of capital, but the rest of the economy will have inflationary pressures and higher interest rates to content with. The poor and the propeller-heads might like this one, but it’s not good for the commonweal, folks.

The Bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Boston-and I'm Not Just Talking Chapter 11-It looks like more than homosexual priests with a taste for boys were being covered up; some who thanked Heaven for little girls or for coca byproducts were looked after as well. This could get very ugly, as one could easily see the Archdiocese having to sell all its assets and hold services in tents if all the lawsuits that will result come to fruition. The idea of going into Chapter 11 has its problems, as a bankruptcy judge would then be in charge of managing church finances, which creates some interesting church-state issues. Here's a possible solution, if the church's assets are needed to pay all the legal bills-put the current assets (or a large chunk of those assets) of the Archdiocese, including title to the church buildings, in a trust fund. The trust fund will then be the landlord of the buildings, with the church paying market rent to the fund and have priority for renting the buildings. If, after all the cases are settled, there are remaining assets, then the church would get back what is left in the fund. The fund could sell off some of the church property, setting up one or more real estate investment trusts to own the buildings, with the proviso that the current church occupants have rental priority and a veto over demolition or renovation. The capital raised from selling off the church assets would then be available to pay off any claims. A master settlement might have to be made to divide the assets between the claimants. Under this agreement, the Archdiocese gets to run its affairs, paying rent on its former properties if it wishes, or moving to new locales if it desires. The trust fund then can pay off the claimants with the money from the sale of properties. That would allow the bills to be paid without having a judge micromanage the Archdiocese.

I'm More Corrupting Than Pornography-Interesting Harvard study on what web-sites China blocks
They found that Beijing actively polices content on the web, intermittently blocking some general-interest high-profile sites whose content changes frequently, such as the tech website Slashdot. There also seemed to be an ambivalent attitude to porn on the net. The researchers found that China blocked just 13.4% of their sample of well-known sexually explicit sites. "Blocking of such sites as Playboy and Penthouse suggests a purposeful decision to restrict sexually explicit material," said the researchers. "Yet the well-known sites of Hustler Magazine and whitehouse.com were consistently accessible." Most of the material blocked were sites offering information about news, health, education, and entertainment, as well as thousands of sites from Taiwan.
It's been a couple of decades since I read such things, but Playboy and Penthouse would have a political libertarian world-view to their articles, while Hustler was largely apolitical (can't vouch for whitehouse-that wasn't around in my youth). That would indicate that sex doesn't bother the Communist government, but libertarian writing does. If someone is spending their free time on porn, they're less likely to be organizing protests against the regime. They want the Chinese public to be happy, distracted and apolitical. My blog, which like most of Blogspot is blocked by Chinese screening, is more dangerous than porn, since it might make them political.

Good economic news-US productivity went up at a 5.1%/year clip in the 3rd quarter. Even more encouraging was the unit cost of labor went down 0.2% in the quarter after going up 2.2% in the previous quarter. This will put a lid on inflation fears and shows the ol' agregate supply curve is heading outward.

Minor Cost Overruns Up North-Bene Diction went to town on this already, but this story out of Canada of a gun registry list that wound up costing a billion dollars (even with the battered Loonie, that's still a big chunk of change) is a cautionary tale to remember when thinking about any crime/terrorism fighting databases that Mr. Ridge might have in mind. The C$2,000,000 initial price tag was but a fond memory. This shouldn't be a spot for getting on the second-amendment high-horse but on a government-oversight steed. If the new Department of Homeland Security wants to make some database, make sure they lay out the costs and parameters very clearly. The current Liberal regime was asleep at the switch and the opposition will have plenty of fun going after this debacle. If the Canadian right can stop the fratricide for a bit, they might have a shot of taking over in 2004.

Breaking Up the Vast Left-Wing News Oligopoly-Papa Blog's nailed it in this Tech-Central take of the emerging conservative (or at least less liberal) media alternatives and a certain ex-VP's dislike of same. He points out that it's not a right-wing conspiracy but the breaking up of a left-leaning news oligopoly.
What seems to be going on - especially given that Fox, which Gore calls right-leaning, is gaining viewers while the more liberal CNN and MSNBC are losing them - is that the introduction of competition into the news business is doing what competition usually does: giving people what they want, instead of what sellers want to sell. And Gore's right: that's a big, big change, and one with important political implications, though he seems not to have fully grasped those. When there were three television networks, consumers of television news had to take what they offered - and with all three producing their news almost exclusively from the East and West Coasts, there wasn't much variety to be had, nor much desire on the part of the rather homogeneous group producing the news to offer variety. Television news in the "golden age" was in fact a classic oligopoly product, with little difference among producers. Those who didn't like it could shout back at the television, but that was their only outlet. This suited politicians like Gore - whose mainstream Democratic liberalism fits well with the traditional network-news mindset - well enough, but left a lot of viewers unsatisfied.
It's expensive to start a television network or a big-city newspaper, so that the big media had little competition for many years. Those barriers to entry allowed the liberal-leanings of modern journalists to go largely unchecked.
But technology changed all that, as broadcast networks were augmented by cable and satellite. Now viewers have a choice, and Fox's share is growing while its competitors' shares are shrinking. The same is true in other areas: talk radio, where liberal hosts have failed to get the kind of audiences enjoyed by conservative and libertarian hosts, and the Internet, where conservative/libertarian voices predominate to the great frustration of, well, guys like Al Gore. In fact, it seems that the greater the competition in a medium, the more that medium leans away from traditional establishment liberalism. In other words, instead of a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy at work, we are seeing the market, now freed from anticompetitive constraints, serving a large group of customers who were dissatisfied with earlier offerings and who now have some options. Not surprisingly, those who benefited from the old system aren't happy with the results.
Cable TV and the Internet have lowered the barriers to entry in a news world that isn't dominated by the network news broadcasts or the NYT and Washington Post. Alternative voices are being heard and bad reportage is fisked with extreme prejudice. Oligarchs (and the people who love them) don't like their cozy world challenged, but that's life in a free economy.

I Was A Teenage PoliSci Major-until I turned 20 just before starting my senior year. Patrick Ruffini has a nice rememberance of John DiIulio and the Penn political science department and gets all of it here
You have to endure a few lectures of Poli Sci 1 to appreciate just how truly alien the academic study of politics is when stacked up against how politics and campaigns really work. You'll encounter numerous buzzwords (rational choice, tragedy of the commons) and quantitative tomes on essentially unquantifiable phenomena. After my first freshman semester, I realized that the theory of politics had so little to do with reality that I decided to minimize my exposure to the field, in favor of the anecdote- and fact-rich realism of history, the veritable queen of the humanities. So seldom did political science have anything substantive to say about how the world really worked that the most technically advanced lesson I had to learn in my four years in the field was Ed Rendell's lecture on the mechanics of soft money. And too often, I saw faculty who taught about politics as it was really practiced marginalized.
PoliSci is the study of government, not the study of politics, theory rather than practice. I learned more about politics from hanging out in Democratic county meetings, rubber-chicken fundraisers and state conventions as a teenager (my dad was a Democratic activist at the time) than I did in eleven PoliSci classes in college. Go read the whole Ruffini article, it's good.

Giving Slick Willie a Fisking- This article of a Bill Clinton speech to the DLC is too target-rich an environment to pass up.
In a speech here before the Democratic Leadership Council, Clinton described President Bush's economic policies as wrong-headed and out of step with the nation. But he said the party needs to sharpen its teeth, particularly when it comes to defending leaders such as Senate Democratic Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). Republicans had accused Daschle of being soft on terrorism. "They have a destruction machine -- we don't," Clinton told his audience at New York University. "What was done to Tom Daschle was unconscionable," he said, "but our refusal to stand up and defend him was worse."
OK folks, the fifth column has just become a destruction machine. Any candidates for the first liberal to refer to Fox News as the Death Star? The key debate with Daschle was that he was stronger on defending ASCME than he was on defending the homeland. That was something Democrats didn’t want to address for fear of looking like water-boys for the AFL-CIO. If the facts are against you, name-call.
The former president suggested that Democrats must wrest control of the security debate. Americans, he said, are scared and seek the comfort of powerful leaders. "When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have someone strong and wrong than weak and right," Clinton said. "We have a heavy responsibility to cooperate in uniting this country on security issues, and also to come up with better ideas across the board."
How about strong and right versus weak and wrong? You’re implying that Duyba’s wrong and you’re weak; he might be half right.
Clinton's speech was a wide-ranging, postmortem analysis of the Democratic Party's failures in last month's midterm elections, in which the Democrats lost their Senate majority to the Republicans and fell deeper into the minority in the House. He credited the GOP for having "message, money and turnout." Clinton had arrived fresh from a trip to Mexico; and save for the trademark bags under his eyes, he seemed ready for the political jousts. As governor of Arkansas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clinton served as president of the DLC. He labored hard to move a left-leaning Democratic Party to the political center on issues ranging from foreign policy and welfare to the death penalty.
And kept it to the left on abortion, Social Security and the environment.
Earlier today, his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), had suggested that Democrats erred in the past election campaign by straying from the Clinton political path. "If people followed the ideas that he worked on, and a lot of us worked on, for more than 20 years, we would have done a much better job" in the recent elections, she told the local public radio station in New York.
What would the FPOTUS have suggested other than to bad-mouth Republicans as greedy evil incarnate? He probably would have suggested triangulating on Iraq, giving the president support while having “reservations” about unilateral behavior. He’d of suggested going after their tax cuts for the wealthy. However, that’s just about what was done. The triangulation was called-out and the rich-bashing didn’t work, since people remember the refund check of last year showing that tax cuts work for the little guy, too. If the honorable Senator from Nuevo York can come up with something that her Bill would have done differently in Missouri, Minnesota or Georgia, feel free.
The former president's speech was not mournful, however. He peppered his talk with prescriptive advice, from how to finesse the tax and Social Security questions -- split the difference with the more ideological Republican positions, he suggested -- to showing strong support for tough inspections in Iraq. But he added that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not present as immediate a threat as al Qaeda.
Let’s remake Huey Lewis-“It’s hip to triangle.” Of course, he’s talking to the DLC, where meeting the Republicans 15% of the way and call it half is the goal.
"Al Qaeda should be the first priority," he said. "Iraq is important, but the terrorist network is more of a threat."
Iraq’s got (or close to getting) nukes, and we know where Iraq is. Osama’s boys are a lot less likely to have nukes, and hard as heck to track down. Al Qaeda’s a more pervasive but weaker threat than a possible Iraqi nuke; taking out a building or a plane is one thing; taking out a whole city is another.
He lamented that Democrats somehow managed to propose a homeland security agency and, at the same time, to be blamed for the delay in getting the new agency up and running. But he suggested that the focus on a new Washington agency is, politically if not programmatically, somewhat beside the point.
When the other guy’s done something right, tweak the subject.
Democrats, he said, should be talking about computer and credit checks that allow intelligence agencies to flag terrorists such as Mohamed Atta, who had changed his address 10 times in less than two years, or another man who had acquired 30 credit cards and $250,000 worth of debt. "They're either really rich or up to no good, and it shouldn't be that hard to figure out which," Clinton said. "You can organize all the agencies you want," he added, "but intelligence must be more accountable."
Two words-Big Brother. Would the Democrats actually proposed such a huge database pre-9/11 without the ACLU crawling over their kiester? Sounds good, but having such financial data in a central database, let alone requiring all address changes to be centrally registered (sounds like the USSR) is a lot of power in one place.
These are the sort of tangible, ground-level and non-ideological proposals that formed the bread-and-butter of Clinton's two campaigns for the White House. And DLC members in attendance today frankly pined for the days when Clinton held the national stage.
OK, who gave you that press release? That doesn’t remind me of the 1992 or 1996 campaigns.
"President Clinton was a wonderful leader and modernized the Democratic Party," said Al From, the council's longtime leader. "I would love not to have had a 22nd Amendment. But we have people who can replace him."
You’d move to have the 22nd amendment removed, Al? I’m all for a third Dubya term.
With an eye on a Clinton-less future, From invited Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley to introduce the former president. He also mentioned a half-dozen new Democratic governors as forming the next generation of party leaders -- he rather pointedly did not mention the more liberal Democratic leadership in the Senate and House.
Then how come only the quirky-liberal Howard Dean’s the only governor in the presidential hunt for 2004?
As the former president looked to the future, he counseled Democrats that the strategic task would be difficult. The Republicans "have an increasingly right-wing and bellicose conservative press," he said. "And we have an increasingly docile establishment press."
I don’t think the conservative press has gotten any more right-wing or bellicose, just a bit better at getting their message across. If anything, they’ve gotten less bellicose since the key object of their wrath left office. You can’t quite get you bile flowing quite as well without Slick Willie to cogitate on. Is the establishment press more docile? On balance, yes, but largely due to Dubya’s popularity. The NYT is leaning to the left stronger than before, while the Washington Post seems to have moved a tad towards the center. The liberal tendencies are still there, but seem to be a bit muted.
But he suggested that politics runs in cycles, saying, "I've read the people who say the Democratic Party is dead. I respectfully disagree."
No, it’ll be with us for quite a long while. We need at least two parties for our system to work; I don’t see them becoming so out of touch with the voters such that they will become a non-factor. In twenty years, if they play their cards with amazing stupidity, they could try to mirror the Greens and allow some secular bourgeois party like Minnesota’s Independence Party to fill the political ecology. When they do have a funeral for the Democratic Party, I'll make sure to send some flowers.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 5:1-10
1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. 4 And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"; 6 just as He says also in another passage, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK." 7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is the ultimate high priest, for the mortal high priests had to have a sacrifice to bring to the altar. Jesus is the sacrifice as well as the high preist, having offered himself at Golgotha as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. That may sound like I'm switching tenses, but what happened on the cross still echos today and is still in effect today; even though I wasn't born for another 1930 years or so, the sacrifice for my sins (and yours) was made there.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Britblogs? I've Got Your Britblogs?-Colby Cosh wonders where the UK bloggers are;
If I were going to make a list of the twenty most gifted newspaper and magazine columnists alive, at least ten would be British. The same is true with English-speaking novelists, I daresay. The British, at every class level, have a facility with language and irony that shames us colonials through and through; to take an obvious example, the number of British politicians who have written books, really sat down and written books which are sold under their own names, is twenty times the number of American ones. Easily. Yet any list of the twenty best weblogs would contain, at most, two or three UK sites.
At 60 million, the UK is a fifth of the size of the US and only about 15% of the Anglosphere, so 10-15% of the good blogs would be about right. If you adjust for the libertarian nature of the Blogosphere and the more socialist leanings of the UK, 10% would be an accomplishment. There are quite a few good UK bloggers. Natalie Solent and Samizdata (international but UK-centric) come quickly to mind, as does Airstrip One and the late, great Dodgeblog. Going a bit outside my daily-or-so rounds, you'll get the Edge of England's Sword, Muslimpundit and the Oxford based Oxblog. That's just a 10-minute quick-'n-dirty before bed. Feel free to add more.

The European Collective-I'm going over comparative economics in my Macro class this week, and I'm having a hard time breaking out of the standard Socialist-Capitalist paradigms that the books tend to present. We're left with "mixed economies" as the word to describe partly-socialist systems. All the western countries would fit that moniker, for none are state-owns-everything socialist or state-owns-no-businesses capitalists. There is a difference between the American economic view and the European economic view that the standard macro textbook doesn't do justice to. The key difference between the two systems (as I see it this evening) is that the American system has the individual as the core operating unit of society while the European system has the state as the core operating unit. Power flows to the government from the people in the US, while power flows from the government to the people in Europe. European "market socialism" looks like the American system at first glance, but there are two different assumptions based on European collectivism and American individualism. The first is that the European systems assumes that it is the government's job to look after the individual while the American assumption is that the individual can largely fend for themselves. This leads to a larger, paternalistic government, with guaranteed health care, guaranteed income and subsidized child care and culture. That larger government leads to slower growth and less wealth, but the underlying collective cultural assumptions are hard to shake. The second assumption is on collective wisdom; Americans feel that the individual is wiser than the collective, while Europeans seem to think that the collective is wiser than the individual. This leads to a greater tolerance of government intervention and of centralization of both government and businesses. In economics, the diversity of ideas that is the free market makes smarter decisions than a central planner, but that runs counter to a collectivist mind-set. The "unilateralist" flaps in geopolitics is a subset of this; if the rest of the world thinks X and the US thinks Y, the Euroweenie thinks that the collective must be right. Paternalism and collectivism both lead to slower-growing economies, while individualism and dynamism helps create faster-growing and richer economies. The continental Europeans see that, but have yet to get rid of the old paradigm. When the French bash Anglo-American economics, they're retreating to their collectivist roots, even though they know it's inefficient. This verges on stereotype, but it seems to come fairly close to explaining the riff between continental Europe and the US. Americans (with the exceptions of the descendents of slaves) are the descendents of immigrants who independently left their own country to find a better life. Those immigrants were independent cusses, by and large, and that ethic still runs through our society( Idle thought-could blacks be more collective in their politics since their forebears were forced to be immigrants?). The UK is a hybrid, it has some of the European collectivism but also some of the individualism of the American. If you look at British history, the settlers are raiders from modern-day France and from Scandinavia, as the first millennia of their history was full of invasions and new peoples setting up shop on the island. A millennia of settling-down has mellowed out that exploring, independent spirit, but it's there. That makes them a bit less European and a bit more American. Australia's immigrant nature might make them a bit less collectivist than Europe as well. Here's three closing thoughts for the Peanut Gallery. Question 1-Is this collectivist nature in Europe for real or just my stereotype? Question 2-How many generations will it take to break this collectivist streak in Europe? Question 3-Will it take southern immigrants to break it?

Evening Musings-Here's a handy gadget to have on a blog picnic-this Blogtracker gizmo via David Janes, which list recently-updated blogs on the blogroll of your choice-here's one of my blogroll. Do the Eagles need a cornerback? Check out John DiIulio's backpedaling and have Andy Reid give him a tryout. Has blogging jumped the shark? I don't know, but when Barbie's blogging, we're in trouble. Thank Sully for the link. This is interesting-"Mountain biking may be linked to infertility." So I'm not the only person to have their [you know what(s)] fall asleep while riding a bicycle? Louder Fenn's got a nice piece on a Farscape episode with a pro-life twist. Sci-Fi often can deal with that well-I remember a Next Generation episode of a scientist from planet of genetic-perfection deal with Jordy's non-functional eyes; he pointed out to them that he wouldn't have been born on their planet. JAG (Eileen's favorite) had a subtle pro-life pitch last week, with a officer-mom putting in a sincere and polite request for a pregnant officer to reconsider the abortion she was heading towards. There are pro-lifers, or at least people who don't view the unborn as a blob of protoplasm, in Hollywood.

The DiIulio Letter-There are more than one telling paragraph to this Drudge-published memo from John DiIulio. Messers Claybourn and Ruffini, among others, have already given it a once over. However, the tone of the letter is of a neolib frustrated by conservatives. This is the big paragraph that many commentators have hit upon
This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis-staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. These folks have their predecessors in previous administrations (left and right, Democrat and Republican), but, in the Bush administration, they were particularly unfettered.
Unfortunately, good retail politics works just that way; make your arguments simple and try to more the debate in your direction. Complex arguments might look neat in a white paper, but don't make great sound bites on the evening news. However, an earlier quote comes closer to Dilulio's complaint
Besides the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism. There is still two years, maybe six, for them to do more and better on domestic policy, and, specifically, on the compassion agenda. And, needless to say, 9/11, and now the global war on terror and the new homeland and national security plans, must be weighed in the balance.
True, but Republicans don't have much more of a domestic policy than what you just mentioned. To tweak the old Bob Novak line, God put Republicans on the planet to cut taxes and to hold down government spending. Other than cutting taxes, the core Republican policy is to keep the Democrats from spending more money. True education reform was blocked by the liberals for their public-school teachers-union allies, as was the faith-based stuff, when liberals balked at allowing charities to have religious standards for hiring employees. However, the Republicans got their tax cuts passed, which makes it a solid first two years. Here's another paragraph that shows the difference between the Republicans and Dr. DiIulio
During the campaign, for instance, the president had mentioned Medicaid explicitly as one program on which Washington might well do more. I co-edited a whole (boring!) Brookings volume on Medicaid; some people inside thought that universal health care for children might be worth exploring, especially since, truth be told, the existing laws take us right up to that policy border. They could easily have gotten in behind some proposals to implement existing Medicaid provisions that benefit low-income children. They could have fashioned policies for the working poor. The list is long. Long, and fairly complicated, especially when-as they stipulated from the start-you want to spend little or no new public money on social welfare, and you have no real process for doing meaningful domestic policy analysis and deliberation. It’s easier in that case to forget Medicaid refinements and react to calls for a “PBOR,” patients’ bill of rights, or whatever else pops up. [italics added]
The administration wasn't interest in bigger government, which would frustrate a neoliberal who could make a case for a bit more government spending on their pet projects. This prompts him to lash out at the conservatives and libertarians who would block the president from moving as far left as he would like
Some are inclined to blame the high political-to-policy ratios of this administration on Karl Rove. Some in the press view Karl as some sort of prince of darkness; actually, he is basically a nice and good-humored man. And some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl’s real or perceived powers. They self-censor lots for fear of upsetting him, and, in turn, few of the president’s top people routinely tell the president what they really think if they think that Karl will be brought up short in the bargain. Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office. The Republican base constituencies, including beltway libertarian policy elites and religious right leaders, trust him to keep Bush “43” from behaving like Bush “41” and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left. Their shared fiction, supported by zero empirical electoral studies, is that “41” lost in ’92 because he lost these right-wing fans. There are not ten House districts in America where either the libertarian litany or the right-wing religious policy creed would draw majority popular approval, and, most studies suggest, Bush “43” could have done better versus Gore had he stayed more centrist, but, anyway, the fiction is enshrined as fact. Little happens on any issue without Karl’s okay, and, often, he supplies such policy substance as the administration puts out. Fortunately, he is not just a largely self-taught, hyper-political guy, but also a very well informed guy when it comes to certain domestic issues. (Whether, as some now assert, he even has such sway in national security, homeland security, and foreign affairs, I cannot say.)
Bush 41 lost in 1992 in large part due to flip-flopping on taxes, both losing support on the right and with swing voters. I'd think you'd have at least 100 districts where a religious conservative agenda would beat a generic liberal, for you have at least that many congressmen who would follow that "right-wing religious policy creed." The "right wing" isn't as far to the right as he would like to think. This comes across as polite sour grapes in that Dubya wasn't a malleable as his father was and that he actually wants to govern as a conservative.

Not Always Crying Wolf-Interesting piece on victimzation groups by Tim Cavanaugh, thanks to Suzanna for the link. By and large, Cavanaugh's piece is dead on, for there are a number of professional offendees out there whose job description is to find things to get upset about, like native Americans protesting the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo or latino groups protesting Speedy Gonzales. However, he goes off track with a bait-and-switch paragraph
Nor is there incentive to declare victory and go home, even when victory clearly has been won. The Polish American Congress is still operating decades after Mike Stivic endured his last Polish joke on All in the Family. Both the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are famous for fund raising letters warning of what the ADL calls "a rising tide of anti-Semitism here and around the world" and the Wiesenthal Center describes as "a frightening new wave of antisemitism and extremism -- often mixed with Holocaust denial." The Catholic League’s Donohue defines anti-Catholicism as the "anti-Semitism of the elites" and asserts "there is a contempt for Christianity among our elites in this country that has no rival."
The victory may well have been won for the Polish-the presence of Solidarity and Pope John Paul II in the news helped do in the Polock joke two decades ago. However, the anti-Jewish stuff seems to be real, as it is has become fashionable to be anti-Jewish in some circles. The anti-Christian bias in elete media isn't a figment of the Catholic League's imagination. William Donohue is a bit over-the-top in his presentation of his case, but the case is often there to be made.

Have a Heart-Today's the 35th anniversary of the first heart transplant; yesterday, I heard one talk radio guy (Hannity, IIRC) bash the idea of death row inmates getting heart transplants. The larger issue is inmates in general getting transplants. I'm not as angry as our talker friend. Yes, it cost taxpayer money, but so does food and water and shelter. We could starve our prisoners to death in a month or two and save a lot of money, but that's not what a civilized society does. Where I might have issue is whether to allow inmates to be near the front of the line for transplants when there are fewer organs than people waiting for transplants. If you have two 40 year olds needing a transplant (remember, if they don't get them, they typically die) and one of them is serving 15-20 for armed robbery, you'd think that the one who's not a jailbird would get priority. But what about our 40-year-old robber versus a 75-year-old who's only got a few years to live given his other problems? Note that our oldster's on Medicare, so the government's picking up the tab either way. I'd go with the robber (duck, incoming). The advantage of modern medical care is that we can do things that we couldn't do when I was a tot. The downside is that we have to pay for it as a society. Count your blessings that we have the capabilities to do organ transplants and have to pay the doctors and nurses to do them.

Edifier du Jour-Hebrews 4:14-16(NASB)
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Been there, done that, got the post cards. He might not of been a slob, but Jesus was one of us for a time. That's the difference between praying to a distant God versus a living God who's put in a stint as a human. He knows what it feels like to be human. Yes, He would know that from designing us and understanding how the human brain works, but I think He might of gotten a special understand by being there as a person in person. Even if He knew exactly what being human would feel like, knowing for sure that He knows is helpful to the believer. Jesus serves as out high priest, with the advantage that he also serves as the sacrifice; he intervenes for us with the Father, blocking our sin from view via his own blood. We can take comfort that we got a down-to-earth Counselor who understand where we're at. We don't need intermediaries to deal with Jesus, the veil's been busted. Step on through and grab the grace that's there for the asking.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Three Questions from Silber-While we're on Silber's Randian-Christian dialog, I'll recreate here what I posted in the comments on this one.
1. Do you utilize your religious faith as a justification for capitalism -- or do you defend capitalism on other grounds? If so, what are the other, non-religious reasons you provide as your defense of capitalism?
Yes and yes. Capitalism works on secular grounds for it utilizes the self-centeredness of people in productive ways; that self-centeredness finds outlets in corruption and laziness rather than productive labor in socialist settings. It also works from a Christian perspective since that self-centeredness translates to that old ugly word sin. I had that viewpoint as a agnostic/generic theist youth; getting a BBA did more to strengthen that viewpoint than finding an evangelical faith.
2. If you do not consider an ethics of rational self-interest to be an underlying philosophical component of capitalism, what ethics do you think capitalism embodies? And if it's not altruism (as I defined it in my earlier posts), what is it?
My thought is that capitalism (or at least American-style free-market economics) puts our self-centered nature to best use. It’s altruistic at the aggregate level in that it creates a society where the commonweal is maximized.
3. More generally: if, as John does, you acknowledge that your belief in God arises solely from faith, how important are your religious beliefs to you in general terms? What other areas of your life do they influence? And, to put one of the related questions more bluntly: doesn't it bother you that you can't defend your belief in God on rational grounds? If not, why not?
I’d say that it isn’t just by raw faith, but by a truckload of circumstantial evidence of God’s activity over the years that can’t be easily chalked up to dumb luck. It influences my teaching, my driving, my marriage and my blogging; pretty much everything. I can back most things up rationally, but the ones that don’t have a good natural-world backup are still defendable, since the evidence I can see helps back up the stuff I can’t see.

Evening Musings-Signs of a married life-having to pick the bras out of the wash before putting the clothes into the dryer. Rich Galen's got a good but flawed analysis here
The crack team of Mondale & Ferraro successfully LOST 49 states to the ticket which the mainstream media pretty much believed were uniquely unqualified to run the country, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In fact, because Mondale lost every state BUT Minnesota against Reagan in 1984, then lost the Senate race IN Minnesota to Norm Coleman last month, he holds the unbreakable record of being the only person in the history of the Republic to have lost elections in all 50 states.
It's only unbreakable if we stay at 50 states. The future additions of Puerto Rico or Alberta or B.C. might make losing 51 or 53 states possible. However, Galen's theme of the day of a conservative "fifth column" in the mainstream media is a good for a chuckle (at the Democrats who are pushing the idea, not at Galen) when the mainstream media's about 90% Democratic. If the handful of conservatives there are a fifth column out to get them, what do you call the liberal rank-and-file of the media? The Mongolian Hoards?

Is Playing the Bad Cop Actionable?-I got this story from Eileen, who had read this Yahoo piece this morning; here's a more subdued LA Times piece on the case. As I understand it, you had Oxnard cops doing the bad cop interrogation routine on a badly wounded suspect, neglecting to mirandize him. They didn't use the resulting confession in court, but the suspect, Oliverio Martinez, is now suing for, among other things, "coercive questioning." The Supreme Court will be hearing the case Wednesday; the 9th Circuit (natch) sided with Mr. Martinez. Despite a lot of the verbiage saying that overruling the lawsuit will do a number on Miranda, I don't think that would be the result. A pro-Oxnard ruling will give cops a little more leeway in questioning suspects in that they're less likely to get sued if they do a Belker imitation ("do you want to go peacefully, or do you prefer internal bleeding?") while collaring a perp. Physical police brutality is still actionable; Rodney King got a nice chunk of change from the LAPD. The Miranda protections against the admissibility of confessions without reminders of one's 5th amendment rights is still intact. However, ruling in favor of the police will allow them to aggressively question people without getting a civil suit. However, if bad cop questioning is actionable, is it actionable because it lacked a Miranda warning? If Martinez wins, the next rash of lawsuits will be for people who got the bad cop treatment after getting mirandized. This is a trial lawyer's erotic fantasy and a police chief's nightmare; the cops have to turn into Mr. Rodgers as they interrogate people for fear of getting sued. Where would the line be for coercive questioning? In this case, you had a badly wounded suspect getting treated rudely by the cops; that makes for generous juries. What treatment is sufficiently coercive as to be actionable? The Supreme Court will have to deal multiple permutations of people treated to varying degrees of harshness prior to getting mirandized. I could see O'Connor and Kennedy siding with Martinez, but I think this will go 5-4 for Oxnard. This creates a lousy precedent if Martinez wins, adding billions of dollars to taxes to pay for all the lawsuits, and a negligible downside if Oxnard wins. It doesn't reward sloppy policework, but instead would opt not to punish aggressive questioning. [Update 8PM-Volokh was on it a bit earlier, and thinks its at least 7-2, and likely 9-0 for the police.]

Afternoon Musings--The UofM's affirmative action policy will hit the Supreme Court, as they've skipped over the appellate level in a rare move. Put WWJD aside, it's WWSD time; what will Sandra do on a policy that gives minorities a break over Anglo-Europeans. That will change the political landscape when this gets decided, and it will likely be a 5-4 job. 6-3 conservative or 6-3 liberal is possible, but be ready for some fireworks on the left if this goes 5-4 against Michigan. As a Michigan State alum, I was tempted to use "Let's Go Blow" as a headline, but it didn't work when a Texas sodomy law was also granted cert today. Day one of the Venezuelan general strike is going peacefully so far; the backers are citing high numbers (80% walkoffs) while the government is giving low numbers(15%). A few more days will be more instructive. Is there anything on Norm Coleman in the news today? I got a couple of Google hits for affair-related stuff, but the Keillor-inspired rumors haven't been more than that to the best of my knowledge. While I'm on the Google front-back on Election Day, I had referred to "turduckin," prompting a lot of hits over the Thanksgiving holiday looking for the dish. Sorry, folks, it's rightly spelled "turducken" with an e. As I understand it, it's a chicken stuffed into a duck then the duck stuffed into a turkey. I spelled it phonetically, not remembering that the last syllable would have been from chicken; but then again, so did you. The Indians that I followed as a doctoral student are now all-but-gone with Jim Thome leaving for Philly-thanks to Kevin for the update. Visquel is about the only guy left from the mid-90s.

Happy Birthday, Junkyard Blog-Bryan Preston's digs just turned one yesterday, and he has some remembrances. This part hit home-
It's been an interesting year, one in which writing has forced me to refine my views, change a position or two when the evidence warranted, and defend that which I saw being mistreated last year--my faith. It was that mistreatment, or rather mischaracterization, of my Christian faith in the blogosphere that sort of forced me into the game. I just couldn't sit idly by while so many lumped myself and my fellow Christians in with the murderers of 9-11 and those hoping to follow in their bloody footsteps. So I had to get in, offer what I could, counter what I knew to be false and clarify what I saw being misunderstood. I hope I've done that, and with grace and humility.
I'm a month away from my blog birthday; I was struck by the libertarian nature of the medium when I started. The evangelical front was rather limited, with Kevin Holtsberry, Chris Johnson and Ben Domenech heading up a very limited list of evangelical bloggers. This was before anyone had heard of Martin Roth or Bene Diction. By the summer, an evangelical blog community started to develop; a bit slower than a very-active Catholic sphere, but growing day by day. The big guns still tend to be libertarian-leaning, with Suzanna Cornett the only avowed evangelical in BlogStreet's Top 100 as we go to press. Johnson, Preston, Orrin Judd and Domenech crack the second 100 while Tony Woodlief, Joel Garver and some guy named Mark Byron crack the third hundred. That's eight out of 300 by my count; not representative of the number of evangelicals in the country. However, I've got a lot more evangelical (and Catholic) friends to back me up in a debate than I did eleven months ago, and that's a positive thing.

Altruistic Capitalism? Susanna Cornett points out this essay from Randian blogger Arthur Silber on altruism and capitalism. She gives a solid critique, but I've got to give a long-winded $0.02 on it.
A disastrous confusion in the minds of most people concerning the nature of altruism is the belief that altruism represents or derives from the principle of benevolence, good will and kindness toward others. Advocates of altruism take great pains to encourage this belief--to establish a "package-deal," as it were--so as to conceal from their victims the actual meaning of the altruist morality. Such a view of altruism is worse than mistaken: like the perversion entailed in the technique of the "Big Lie," it represents the exact opposite of the truth; altruism and benevolence are not merely different, they are mutually inimical and contradictory.
If one could move towards a perfect altruism, where the believer was totally sold-out and living as a street-person, giving away all his wealth to others, he’d have a case that the person is worse off than if he were a bit selfish. However, you don’t see too many such saints.
The literal philosophical meaning of altruism is: placing others above self. As an ethical principle, altruism holds that man must make the welfare of others his primary concern and must place their interests above his own; it holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the moral justification of his existence, that self-sacrifice is his foremost duty and highest virtue.
Let’s see how his straw man of altruism meshes with orthodox Christian thought.
(1) altruism holds that man must make the welfare of others his primary concern and must place their interests above his own.
The believer’s supposed to place God first, but from a naturalist viewpoint (ignoring the supernatural and ignoring God and His relationship with people), that will manifest itself as putting others first.
(2) man has no right to exist for his own sake
This runs counter to basic Christian doctrine, for each life is viewed as unique. This might be more true of Islamic doctrine, where individual lives are viewed as more dispensable, but Christian doctrine values each person as a child of God and to be treated with respect. This belief drives the pro-life movement to defend the unborn and the disabled from utilitarian deaths. If read tightly, the objectivist might argue that the Christian view is that we exist to glorify God rather than to enjoy life, and thus we don’t have a general right to exist. You don’t see mandated martyrdom, however.
(3) service to others is the moral justification of his existence
From a naturalistic viewpoint, yes. Faithfulness to God, and the service to others that flows from it, is our raison d’etre.
(4) self-sacrifice is his foremost duty and highest virtue.
From their naturalistic viewpoint, the duty of following Jesus’ commands would look that way.
The essence of altruism is the concept of self-sacrifice. It is the self that altruism regards as evil: selflessness is its moral ideal. Thus, it is an anti-self ethics--and this means: anti-man, anti-personal happiness, anti-individual rights.
The area where Silber’s thoughts run astray is that people don’t follow their faith to the extent where everyone tries to out-martyr each other. I think Buddhism would be a good fit for the altruism that he’s talking about. It’s been twenty years since my Buddhism class at CMU, but here’s my synopsis of classic Buddhism: Suffering is caused by wants; to minimize suffering, you need to minimize wants-“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed.” Nirvana is achieved by getting rid of all wants and thus all suffering, becoming the selfless altruist that Silber is ranting against. Ain’t gonna happen. We may come close to selflessness, but never quite get there. We retain a spark of self-centeredness that won’t go away. That self-centeredness offends God to the extent that we’re doing things He doesn’t like. Let’s see if Christianity matches up with his altruism.
(1) anti-man
Christianity is pro-man on a number of levels. First, each individual is a person of value in God’s eyes. Jefferson, although more of a Deist than a Christian, noted that the Creator gave us the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which is about as pro-man as political philosophy gets. Secondly, God wants fellowship with each person, not mankind as a whole. Jesus died not for mankind in general, but each and every believer as a person. God values the individual, not just the herd. Thirdly, the Bible is speciesistic; mankind’s put in charge of managing God’s creation. We have dominion over nature, not the other way around. This puts Christianity a step ahead of much of Eastern theology and modern environmentalist thought that sees mankind as an smart animal rather than a special creation of God.
(2) anti-personal happiness
John 10:10 comes to mind “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Much of the proscriptions in the Bible are there to protect people from destructive short-term urges that will hurt them in the long haul.
(3)Anti individual rights
See anti-man, first paragraph. Secular philosophies have tended to be more communal in nature than religious ones, for once God is out of the picture, man is now an animal and the best interest of the herd becomes paramount. Secular man will lean more towards totalitarianism than towards libertarianism. Back to the piece
A morality that tells man that he is to regard himself as a sacrificial animal, is not an expression of benevolence or good will.
That’s not Christian thought, for the sacrifice was already taken care of on Golgotha. That might describe Hinduism or Buddhism, but not Christainity. There, man’s a companion of God, not a farm animal to be slaughtered.
By the nature of the altruist ethics, it can engender only fear and hostility among men: it forces men to accept the role of victim or executioner, as objects of sacrifice or profiteers on human sacrifices-- and leaves men no standard of justice, no way to know what they can demand and what they must surrender, what is theirs by right, what is theirs by favor, what is theirs by someone's sacrifice--thereby casting men into an amoral jungle. Contrary to the pretensions of altruism's advocates, it is human brotherhood and good will among men that altruism makes impossible.
We aren’t working in a hypothetical universe of a bunch of wanna-be monks living in anarchy but a real world with laws and customs. The Golden Rule serves as a guide for what can be asked for of ones fellow man and the civil reparations layed out in the Mosaic Law used as a guidepost for civil justice. Silber uses the metaphor of the sacrificial beast rather than of small mutual sacrifices. The altruistic-minded person will take pleasure in using his assets (or his time) himself, but will also take pleasure in having someone else use them. Putting a dollar in the Salvation Army bin may bring more pleasure than buying a bowl of chili to go with your lunch. However, such altruistic behavior has its limits; at some point, people’s selfishness will kick in and they will start closing the checkbook and start spending money on themselves.
Benevolence, good will and respect for the rights of others proceed from an opposite code of morality: from the principle that man the individual is not an object of sacrifice but an entity of supreme value; that each man exists for his own sake and is not a means to the ends of others; that no one has the right to sacrifice anyone.
Good paragraph, except that God is the one of supreme value. From a naturalistic vantage point, the respect for each other as children of God makes each individual valued. However, we exist both for ourselves and for each other. It is true that no one has the right to sacrifice anyone, but people can voluntarily sacrifice part of themselves (or all on rare occasions) for the greater good.
With regard to my post about capitalism and religion and why they are incompatible, I repeat this sentence of Branden's: "[Altruism] is an anti-self ethics -- and this means: anti-man, anti-personal happiness, anti-individual rights." (Emphasis added.) This is why any religion which relies on an ethics of altruism is incompatible with capitalism -- and to my knowledge, every religion (certainly, every major religion) depends on an ethics of altruism. I will have some additional details and implications to offer on this subject in a future post, but this is the essence of the issue.
The difference between Christianity and eastern religions is the idea that mankind isn’t perfectible. The theology of Hinduism and Buddhism stress selflessness as a way of achieving a divine state, either the Hindu a multi-life refining process where selfishness is striped away until union with the divine is achieved or the Buddhist selfless state of Nirvana (that might be more descriptive of Theravada than Mahayana) is achieved. However, Christian theology points out that man is sinful and can’t get to God on his own. Thus, the emphasis isn’t on hyper-orthopraxis but of a faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death for the believer. The good works that lean towards altruism are the result of a closer walk with God and doing things that are less selfish. However, a perfect altruism isn’t to be expected. On the personal level, we will give to others to the extent that we can overcome our desire to spend the money on ourselves, where we balance the pleasure we gain from spending (or saving for future spending and/or giving) with the pleasure we get from giving. We’re maximizing our personal well being, and as we get godlier, we’ll get more altruistic and weigh other people’s welfare higher than before. On the national level, a benevolent and altruistic macroeconomic policy will look to maximize the national well-being. This is consistent with a largely capitalist system in that while a socialist system might be good at sharing the wealth, it’s lousy at creating wealth. A altruistic fiscal policy will have the joy the needy person gets from the government spending weighed against the pain caused by the taxes needed to pay for the spending, both from the lost utility of the taxpayer and the slowing down of the economy from the higher taxes. I can defend that from a Christian perspective. We’re supposed to be altruistic and help the poor, but I also understand that people are sinful and fall short of being purely altruistic. In order to maximize the overall well being, we need to reward people for working and investing; taxing their gains discourages works and investment by making leisure and spending less costly. The trick then is to find that sweet spot that maximizes the commonweal; the well-off person should look to help the needy but the more-needy person should be too much of a burden on their society. This argues for something between anarchy and socialism. The altruistic parts leans one towards the socialist end, while the sin-nature argues for a free-market approach. This might sound a bit too much like “third way” neosocialism, but all but the hard-core libertarian or communist will agree to some mix of free-markets and government spending. The trick is to find what that proper mix is. American conservatives and libertarians think that sweet spot is to the lower-tax side of where we’re at. In the past, I’ve posited a Byron Curve that measures commonweal as a function of tax rates (and the resultant level of government that comes from those rates) as opposed to the Laffer Curve that’s measuring tax revenues as a function of tax rates. Like the supply siders of two decades ago pointed out that we’re on the right side of the peak of the Laffer Curve, I’d argue that we’re on the right side of the peak of the Byron Curve; smaller government and lower tax rates would improve the economy and the commonweal, helping the economy more than it hurts the people who will have their government largess reduced. At some point, we might find that left slope, where government might get too small and poverty and anarchic pathologies might overwhelm an otherwise thriving economy, but we’re not anywhere near that point. The American-style welfare capitalism might not be the minimalist libertarian state of the Randian dream, but avoids the stifling aspects of socialism. If capitalism=anarchy, then it might be argued that capitalism can’t be altruistic at the collective level, but I’d argue that a free-market, lower-taxed system is altruistic in that it creates a greater commonweal than socialism does. That’s consistent with both good theology and good economics

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